August 16, 2018

Internet Giants Delete Content of Alex Jones

August 6, 2018

[AFP] - Internet giants launched an offensive Monday against far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who is now banned from Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube.

The move, described by Jones as a "coordinated communist-style crackdown," came after months of criticism against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube calling for them to do more to combat disinformation and hate discourse.

Jones, whose site InfoWars has accused victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting of being "actors" in a plot to discredit the gun lobby, violated Facebook's hate speech policies, the social network said.

Facebook said the pages were taken down for "glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies."

Gunman Adam Lanza killed 26 people, including 20 children, when he launched his rampage in the Connecticut school.

Jones has repeatedly claimed the massacre was a hoax and that the parents of the murdered first graders were actors, an accusation that has sparked death threats against some of the bereaved mothers and fathers.

Several of the families have sued the 44-year-old Texan, accusing him of using their suffering to expand his audience. Jones has counter-sued, demanding in turn that they pay his court expenses.

Among the conspiracy theories Jones has peddled are charges that the US government was behind numerous terrorist attacks, including the September 11, 2001 strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Several days ago, Facebook removed four videos Jones posted that the group said violated its policy on hate speech.

Jones responded by posting more content on other pages, prompting the social media giant to suspend his four main pages.

Facebook stressed that it was the violent language used by Jones, rather than his conspiracy theories, that prompted the move.

Spotify, the streaming music online service, had already removed a number of Jones's podcasts last week, accusing them of breaking its own hate-speech rules. On Monday, the Swedish company went a step further and banned his program altogether.

Apple removed most of Jones's podcasts, AFP confirmed, after the action was initially reported by Buzzfeed.

"Apple does not tolerate hate speech, and we have clear guidelines that creators and developers must follow to ensure we provide a safe environment for all of our users," an Apple spokesman told Buzzfeed.

In late July, YouTube took down videos posted by Jones and suspended him for 90 days. After Jones sought to skip the suspension by broadcasting live on other YouTube channels, the online video platform said it closed down all of his affiliated channels.

His main YouTube channel counted some 2.4 million subscribers.

Pinterest also removed the InfoWars account.

Twitter has so far held out on taking punitive action against Jones, saying his account and that of InfoWars did not violate the microblogging service's rules. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"Last night's purge was a coordinated effort and had nothing to do with enforcing hate speech rule," Jones said on his talkshow.

Several ultra-conservative websites showed support for Jones, publicly backing his claim that he was a victim of a plot by Big Tech companies.

"Are tech giants working together to censor conservatives"? asked Gateway Pundit.

A Breitbart headline read: "CNN, Democrats successfully lobby big tech to censor their critics."

2018 Has Been Bull of Weird Weather So Far

July 5, 2018

[Popular Science] - It’s been a strange year in a lot of ways, and the weather is no exception.

There was snow where it had no right to be, blistering heat in mid-winter, and Arctic sea ice was nowhere to be found. Okay, that last one isn’t that strange—it’s an inevitability of global warming—but still. It’s been a weird year the world around. Here’s a quick tour:

Ice and snow in Florida

Early January brought snowflakes to the Florida panhandle for the first time since 1989 (since 1885 if you’re just talking about January). That was courtesy of Winter Storm Grayson. Lest we forget the other southern states, Georgia got six inches of snow in some places and Charleston, South Carolina, got just over five. Predictably, everything came to a standstill as Bostonians laughed about pathetic Southerners. But as we reported earlier this year, there’s no reason for states where the low rarely gets below freezing to have the infrastructure to handle more than a flurry—and Bostonians wouldn’t be so cool in the face of the hurricanes that Floridians weather every year.

And snow in the Sahara

Not just a dusting—15 full inches in part of Algeria. The Sahara regularly gets cold enough to snow (nighttime temperatures generally fall below freezing in winter), but the humidity is typically far too low to produce precipitation (it being a desert and all). But experts pointed out that because the Sahara is so massive and there are so few weather stations in it, it may be downright common to see snow in some parts. We just have no way of knowing.

The coldest April followed by the hottest May

Sure, it was only the coldest April in the last 21 measly years, but it was the hottest May since we started keeping records. The National Weather Service has data tracking back 124 years in the continental U.S., and 2018 even beat out the Dust Bowl era. This increasing heat really shouldn’t be that shocking at this point—global warming has kept us on track to continually beat our previous records. The shift from the coldest April was what was so strange; two states even reported their coldest Aprils of all time.

A wildfire that caused a thunderstorm in Texas

The Mallard Fire in the Texas Panhandle burned so hot during the month of May that it formed a kind of cloud usually associated with volcanic eruptions. Pyrocumulus clouds form when air gets heated intensely, then cools and condenses as it rises. When this happens fast enough, it can sometimes cause storms (plus the rushing winds help fuel the fire). This one caused one-inch hail and lightning near Wheeler, Texas.

The Beast from the East

In late February, much of Europe (but especially the U.K. and Ireland) got blasted with arctic winds sweeping across central Europe to the west. The cold snap killed dozens as temperatures dropped dangerously, record-setting-ly low and snow slammed into many cities. Even Rome got some snow, where it is so rare to see flakes that they sent in the Italian Army to clean up the streets.

Yet more snow, this time in June

Newfoundland got a dousing of snow at the end of June accompanied by wind chills of 20°F. The average high that time of year is usually in the 60s. People are used to late-season snow that far north, but it’s been more than 20 years since any fell quite so late. Canadians can thank a big block of cold air sucked into a low-pressure system off the coast of Newfoundland for the snowfall during the last week of school.

And finally, those four nor’easters in a row

The Northeastern U.S. saw four winter storms in one month, and though snow in March isn’t terribly uncommon, it was a strangely stormy period. The jet stream happened to direct air down toward the coast while a block of air over the ocean prevented a shift in the wind, meaning that the area got pummeled again and again.

If it seems like there’s been a lot of snow-related weird weather, it’s not just because we’re only halfway through the year. Climate change may be making winter storms worse, or possibly more frequent, though it’s difficult to say for certain. Researchers think warming seas could contribute to more severe weather, and a few worry that rising temperatures in the Arctic could be destabilizing wind patterns and contributing to intense winter storms in the Northeast. Regardless, climate change will certainly mean more record-smashing temperatures and generally weird weather—so expect the unexpected.

World Agriculture Weather Highlights